...even if you’re reading this at any other time of the year when you just managed to scrape out a whole day (or two) to read, then it wouldn’t hurt to keep this list in mind…
Grab your towel and your babel fish: Douglas Adams's beloved sci-fi series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is coming back as a new show onto the smallest screen near you!
Today is March 11th, which marks the birthday of famed British author Douglas Adams. Adams needs no introduction, being a prolific author, scriptwriter, humorist, and essayist with a profound influence on British culture. He wrote the famed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a comedy science fiction series first created as a radio drama before being adapted into books, a TV series, video games, and a feature film. Although certain details were changed between the various adaptations, the overall story remains the same: it follows the adventures of the last surviving man from Earth, Arthur Dent, after he is rescued before the Earth is destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass and journeys across the galaxy, using the in-version guidebook The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for help. Along the way, he meets characters such as experienced hitchhiker Ford Prefect, the two-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox, and the depressed robot Marvin. The books have gone on to sell over 15 million copies worldwide.
The books sharply blended laugh out loud dry comedic wit with genuinely intriguing science fiction ideas. The series provides numerous iconic quotes and characters, from the alien Vogons reading awful poetry, to food items begging the protagonists to eat them in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, to the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything: ’42.’ The Hitchhiker series blended all these ideas masterfully and is just as likely to make you laugh as it is to make you think critically about the universe.
Of course, Douglas Adams’ career hardly ends there. He wrote numerous other novels, such Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency a humorous detective novel and The Meaning of Liff, a dictionary for words that don’t exist yet. He also worked on Doctor Who during Season 17, helping write what is considered one of the show’s strongest stories: “City of Death”. Furthermore he co-wrote the sketch “Patient Abuse” from Monty Python’s Flying Circus’s final season, a satirical sketch that showcases the ineffectiveness of bureaucracy, a common theme through Adam’s body of work. In addition, he had a hand in scripting a few video games, such as Bureaucracy and Starship Titanic.
Douglas Adams was an outspoken environmentalist, a lover of fast cars, and a proclaimed ‘radical’ atheist. (The radical part he added to show he was serious about atheism). He died of a heart attack in 2001, ironically in the gym with a towel in hand. This is ironic, as, according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Fandom Wiki,
“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have….you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc…[and] is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”
Nevertheless, Adams lives on, with his books remaining hugely popular and the phrases ‘Don’t Panic!’ and ‘42′ destined to live on forever.
Happy birthday, Douglas Adams! Do yourself a favor and read one of his novels today, while curling up with a towel. Just in case.
Featured Image Via BBC
Elon Musk has been in the news lately, for better or worse. First, he offered to design a submarine to ferry away the Thai soccer team trapped in the cave. Then he raged and threw an infantile fit at a rescue leader for rejecting that submarine, calling him offensive names on Twitter. Then his company Tesla’s stocks hit some turbulence because of said tweet and some other bad press.
Musk has some issues, it’s true. But he’s not at fault for his tastes in sci-fi, which are excellent. Here are some of his favorites.
Image Via Digital Trends
Reread Asimov’s Foundation series. Brilliant.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 8, 2014
A set of classic science fiction novels concerning the fall of a Galactic Empire and one man’s attempts to predict the future accurately enough to forestall an interstellar dark age. The Foundation exists as a repository of human knowledge in order to save civilization itself and prevent an era of barbarism.
Image Via Paste Magazine
A comic masterpiece that starts with the Earth being demolished to make way for a space highway — and it only gets wackier from there. A novel that asks the important questions, like what is the meaning of life the universe and everything, and gets 42 as an answer in return.
Image Via Pop-Verse
A future Lunar society facing food shortages rebels against the tyranny of Earth with the help of an artificial intelligence. Another science fiction classic by a member of the big three of sci-fi writers.
Image Via Gizmodo
Reading The Culture series by Banks. Compelling picture of a grand, semi-utopian galactic future. Hopefully not too optimistic about AI.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 26, 2014
A series of novels and short stories centered around a utopian psuedo-anarchist spacefaring society ruled by benevolent intellects known as Minds. The stories often concern the Culture’s contact with other civilizations that don’t share their particular set of values. Several of SpaceX’s droneships were named after Minds from this series.
Image Via Bloody Disgusting
A cautionary tale about the dangers of superintelligent artificial intelligence. In a word, terrifying. The AI at the center of this story wields godlike powers that he inflicts sadistically upon the last survivors of the human race.
Feature Image Via CNet